VIENNA – Austria’s President Alexander van der Bellen gave on Saturday his seal of approval for the formation of a coalition government between the conservative Popular Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), which is set to take office in the coming days.
Van der Bellen’s endorsement clears the path for ÖVP front man and future chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, to become the youngest leader in Europe at just 31 years old, with the support of FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who has chaired his euro-skeptic nationalist group since 2005.
“If everything goes to plan, there is nothing to stop the new government taking office at the beginning of the coming week,” said the president, a former leader of the Green Party, following his meeting with Kurz and Strache at the Hofburg former imperial palace in Vienna, which now serves as the presidential headquarters.
Van der Bellen is due to meet with prospective government ministers over the course of the weekend.
The deal brokered between Kurz and Strache, whose parties governed together from 2000-2005, would make Austria the only western European country to currently have a far-right party in government.
“It is in Austria’s national interest to remain at the center of a strong European Union and continue to actively participate in the future development of the European Union,” said Van der Bellen, who has previously criticized the politics of the FPÖ for its ultra-nationalist, euro-skeptic and xenophobic policies.
On Saturday, however, he wished both politicians the best of luck.
Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives failed to secure a majority in the federal elections in on Oct. 15, although it emerged as the largest party.